Without Rondo, Celtics fall to Nets 102-97

Without Rondo, Celtics fall to Nets 102-97
November 16, 2012, 4:09 am
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BROOKLYN, NY Well the Boston Celtics got an eyeful of what a Rajon Rondo-less game would look like on Thursday night in Brooklyn.
It wasn't pretty, folks.
But give the Celtics credit.
They battled until the absolute bitter end of this game.
However, their efforts weren't enough as the Nets held on for a 102-97 win over the C's that snapped Boston's three game winning streak.
After a 6-0 spurt by Brooklyn broke open an 87-all tie with 1:45 to play, Boston ran off five straight -- including a 3-pointer by Jeff Green -- that cut the Nets lead to 93-92.
Deron Williams sank a pair of free throws with 43 seconds to play after driving into the lane and drawing a foul. He finished with 24 points and eight assists.
Down 95-92, Doc Rivers called a time-out.
Paul Pierce drove into the lane and was fouled, and nearly had a 3-point play opportunity had his shot taken one or two friendly bounces.
Not only did he miss that shot, but he missed both of his free throws with 34.5 seconds to play that kept the C's deficit at three points. Pierce led the C's with 22 points.
A pair of Joe Johnson free throws were followed by a Pierce 3-pointer with 24 seconds to play that made it a 97-95 game.
The C's could never get any closer than a two-point deficit for the rest of the game.
With Rondo out, there was an opportunity for a number of Boston players to contribute in ways that they hadn't before.
And while a number of them did just that, it still wasn't enough to snap the Nets' winning streak which now stands at four in a row.
At no point was Rondo's absence more noticeable than the game's final moments, a time when he usually dominates play in some way, shape or form.
Watching the C's struggle to get great shots down the stretch was a cruel reminder of just how valuable Rajon Rondo is to this team.
Rondo was out because of sprained right ankle injury suffered in Boston's victory over Utah on Wednesday.
Replacing Rondo in the starting lineup was Leandro Barbosa, who had a season-high 16 points on Wednesday in Boston's victory over Utah.
He was even better on Thursday as a starter -- his first start since Jan. 22, 2010 when he played with the Phoenix Suns -- in tallying his second straight season high scoring in as many days, with 17 points.
But replacing Rondo is not the job of one man; not on this team, anyway.
It took the collective efforts of Boston's slew of perimeter players to keep them within striking distance.
In addition to Barbosa, the Celtics also got a season-high scoring night from Courtney Lee who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds which was also a season-best.
To see the Celtics playing with a lead at all, let alone in some of the latter stages of the game, was unexpected considering how thoroughly beaten they were on the boards in the first half.
With seemingly no answer in sight for the team's ever-persistent rebounding woes, Rivers elected to give seldom-used Jason Collins -- make that never used Jason Collins -- a chance to play.
Collins' interior defense and shear presence helped the Celtics chip into Brooklyn's lead which stood at 31-26 after the first quarter.
Boston managed to make it a game in the second quarter in which they scored 12 of the quarter's first 19 points and were able to tie the game at 38 following a 19-foot jumper by Kevin Garnett.
But that would be as close as the C's would get in the second quarter as Brooklyn scored seven straight and took a 59-50 lead into the half.
First-half frustration among the players and Doc Rivers began to surface as the game went on, with both making their displeasure known with the way the game was being called.
One of the more bizarre calls came in the second quarter when Leandro Barbosa drove into the lane and was grabbed around the neck by Keith Bogans.
The ruling on the floor at the time was a flagrant-one foul. But after the officials reviewed the replay, they ruled that it was a standard two-shot foul.
But that call, albeit questionable, did not decide this game.
Boston struggled most of this game for the same reason they usually struggle -- rebounding.
How bad was it?
The Nets had almost as many offensive rebounds (15) at the half as Boston had total (17).
And those multiple opportunities generated 19 second-chance points in the first half, while the Celtics could only muster up six.